In this new era of sustainability, many industries can claim they are sustainable without having to be certified by a 3rd party. Even if there is an index that organizations can quantify their sustainability efforts, often times there is no one to review those efforts and certify them. The clothing and apparel industry is no different, until now.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, just developed the Higg Index, a comprehensive assessment of a product’s social and environmental impacts, allowing companies to identify opportunities to improve long-term sustainability throughout their supply chains.
This new effort to help promote sustainable clothing manufacturing and distribution is spearheaded by top brands and distributors including Nike, Wal-Mart, Target, Adidas, Gap and Coca Cola. The Higg index was based off of the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco Index and Nike’s Apparel Environmental Design Tool. The Higg Index combines these two tools and improves upon them.
The release of the Higg Index follows a year of beta testing of over 150 products from over 63 companies worldwide. According to an article on Ecouterre.com, Karin Ekberg, group head of environmental services at Adidas states “During months of pilot testing, we have already been able to use the Higg Index as an environmental indicator in the production of many of our products by all brands. We intend for the Higg Index to form an increasingly important part of our overall product creation and production strategy in the years to come.”
This Index is a great iteration on tools that were already in place but were inadequate, however there is still great room for improvement. The index is only a way for these organizations to measure their own social and environmental impact. Currently there is no way to verify that the information these companies enter into their reports is accurate. Creating a workforce to audit the index is time-consuming and costly, but according to The Apparel Coalition’s website, they are “considering developing a Higg Index verification process/protocol.”
Once there is a verification process in place, companies can inform consumers of their verified sustainability efforts and educate consumers to purchase responsibly.
Thank you to Revmodo.com for the photo.